Gas for $1.99 or lower? Prices plummeting in Pennsylvania as coronavirus spreads

Gas prices in Pennsylvania could plummet below $2 a gallon in the coming days as a result of the shutdown from the novel coronavirus.

At one station in Shrewsbury, it already has. Motorists were fueling up for $1.99 at the Exxon along Route 851.

The average current price is $2.33 a gallon in Pennsylvania, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report. Some counties, such as Lawrence and Adams, are seeing prices as low as $2.06 and $2.14 a gallon.

It’s $2.12 at some convenience stores in the York area, according to GasBuddy.com.

Don’t rush to fill up yet, and shop around when you do. 

Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said he thinks prices could go down another 50 cents to 75 cents. And that would bring prices under $2 a gallon for the first time in four years.

“And if you fall under $1.86, which could happen, it’ll be the lowest average since the Great Recession back 12 years ago,” he said on Monday. “I think that’s certainly within the realm of possibility as well.” 

Why prices are plummeting

Prices have been falling because of the significant drop in demand for gasoline and other refined products.

Millions of Americans are staying home because of the virus. Schools are closed, and employees are working from home. That’s taking a significant bite into overall gasoline demand and causing prices to plummet, DeHaan said.

Some places in the country could see prices drop below $1 a gallon in the coming weeks. That’ll likely happen in the Great Lakes region, such as Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin, he said.

The gas tax in Pennsylvania is 57.6 cents per gallon. It helps to pay for road and bridge work. Gas prices are set by the industry, and how or whether taxes are passed on to consumers is their decision, said Alexis Campbell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

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With travel being down, less fuel is being bought, Campbell said. A federal stimulus program could help with the drop in gas tax revenue, but it isn’t known what that looks like yet.

“At this point, it’s too early to determine exactly what the impacts will be,” she wrote in an email.  

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What happens when normal life resumes

Most states are falling into similar time frames for their stay-at-home orders, DeHaan said. For now, it looks like those orders will last through the beginning of April, although it could go later.

A price increase could be more noticeable if everyone goes back to work at the same time, he said.

It’s difficult to tell what will happen, though, because prices still have much more room to fall, he said. That will take at least several weeks.

If Americans go back to work and gas prices still haven’t caught up with the decline, that could soften the blow of any sort of rebound, he said.

Gas prices in the region

Here’s a quick look at what drivers currently are paying at the pump, on average:

Chambersburg/Waynesboro: $2.33

Gettysburg: $2.14

Harrisburg: $2.23

Lebanon: $2.20

Lancaster: $2.27

State College: $2.16

York: $2.21 

Motorists should shop around because some stations could be higher in price, depending on when they bought the gasoline, DeHaan said.

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